In this study published in the Bristish Medical Journal, result of the survey Epipage-2, the researchers were interested in the development of more than 3000 children born prematurely in 2011. For each one, at the age of 5 and a half, the researchers carried out an assessment of their growth. This key age makes it possible to precisely assess their sensory and cognitive motor development.

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Difficulties proportional to the level of prematurity

Result: 10 to 30% of children present significant difficulties. Minor difficulties affect around 30% of them.

The level of complications is also proportional to the degree of prematurity. This is particularly the case for motor disorders related to vision or hearing.

For Dr Jean-Yves Ancel, co-author of the study, if the care and surveillance networks have greatly improved in recent years, they can still be improved: “Once they (the children) come out of hospitals, there are now structures in place, including what are called vulnerable child monitoring networks that exist. Only, they take care of them up to 2, 3, 4 years, sometimes 5 years but quite rarely. We often find ourselves, between 5 and 6 years old, with parents and children who are unfortunately less well supported than they should be. ”

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School difficulties

The researchers were also interested in the integration of these children in school. Among them, 7% of moderate premature babies, 14% of extremely premature babies and 28% of extremely premature babies need appropriate school monitoring.

The diversity of needs complicates the organization of specific monitoring of each student. “Once we have identified the difficulties and taken care of them, we must also focus on trying to see what skills these children have. They are not in deficit in all areas, they have difficulties in certain areas but they also have skills “,explains Dr Jean-Yves Ancel from the public health and social medicine service at Cochin hospital in Paris. “I believe that the future is also to work on the skills of these children and how we are going to help them develop areas in which they are particularly good.”

Specialists point out, children continue to grow and develop after 5 and a half years. The disturbances can further subside or disappear if families are supported.

In France, each year, around 55,000 children are born before the 37e weeks of pregnancy, 8,000 to 10,000 are even large or extremely premature.

Also related: “Premature babies: for a future without sequelae”